Caring for Cascadia’s Carnivores

Aug03

Oregon Killing Harl Butte Wolf Pack

August 3, 2017

For Immediate Release

Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, nick@cascwild.org(314) 482-3746

Oregon Killing Wolves Again in Imnaha Pack Territory

Harl Butte Pack Targeted in Response to Depredations on Forest Service Lands

Today, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife signed a kill order for the Harl Butte  Pack in Northeastern Oregon.  The Harl Butte Pack territory largely overlaps with the former territory of the Imnaha Pack which was killed last year by the Department.  The kill order comes in response to two recent conflicts with cows on public National Forests, where one calf was confirmed killed by wolves. 

"Cascadia Wildlands is disgusted that the Department is moving to kill wolves again in the Imnaha pack territory," said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. "It is becoming painfully obvious from every experience in Oregon and Washington that killing wolves leads to more conflict down the line and does not address the problem.  We are setting ourselves up for a perpetual cycle where we are throwing away public dollars and needlessly killing a still-recovering species."

The Department is operating under a wolf plan last updated in 2010.  The Department is obligated to update its plan every five years, but delayed this update to push forward the removal of wolves from the state list of endangered species.  This delisting decision is currently being litigated and was heavily criticized by Oregonians and the scientific community. 

"The Department is killing wolves under an outdated wolf plan, the revision of which is approaching three years overdue.  The Department has released a draft of this plan with a science update that calls into serious question the efficacy of killing wolves to prevent conflicts with livestock.  It is ridiculous that the Department is prioritizing killing wolves prior to finalizing a sound management policy."

The request for the kill order came from Oregon's livestock industry, which has recently argued in court that wolves are an invasive species.  The recent wolf-livestock conflicts occurred on public Forest Service lands, where grazing is heavily subsidized by the federal government.  

"This kill order is wrong and simply another aimless gift to the commercial livestock industry already bloated on public subsidies.  There are just over a hundred wolves confirmed in Oregon, and population growth this past year was stagnant.  The mission of the Department of Fish and Wildlife is to protect recovering native species, not to meaninglessly pander to large commercial industries pushing for wolf eradication."

The kill order can be found here.

Jul20

Washington to Kill Wolves

WDFW NEWS RELEASE 
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091 
http://wdfw.wa.gov/

July 20, 2017

Contact: Donny Martorello, (360) 902-2521

WDFW plans to take lethal action to change wolf pack's behavior

OLYMPIA – State wildlife managers plan to remove members of a wolf pack that has repeatedly preyed on livestock in Stevens County since 2015.

Jim Unsworth, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) authorized his staff to take lethal action against the Smackout wolf pack, based on four occasions where wolves preyed on livestock since last September.

Unsworth said that action, set to begin this week, is consistent with Washington's Wolf Management Plan of 2011, which authorizes WDFW to take lethal measures to address repeated attacks on livestock.

It is also consistent with the department's policy that allows removing wolves if they prey on livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period, said Donny Martorello, WDFW's lead wolf manager.

That policy was developed last year by WDFW and its 18-member Wolf Advisory Group, which represents the concerns of environmentalists, hunters, and livestock ranchers.

"The purpose of this action is to change the pack's behavior, while also meeting the state's wolf-conservation goals," Martorello said. "That means incrementally removing wolves and assessing the results before taking any further action."

The Smackout pack is one of 20 wolf packs documented in Washington state by WDFW in 2016. At that time, the pack was estimated to consist of eight wolves, but it has since produced an unknown number of pups.

Martorello noted that the state's wolf population is growing at a rate of about 30 percent each year.

The pack's latest depredation on livestock was discovered July 18 by an employee of the livestock owner who found an injured calf with bite marks consistent with a wolf attack in a leased federal grazing area.

During the previous month, the rancher reported to WDFW that his employee had caught two wolves in the act of attacking livestock and killed one of them. The department has since determined that those actions were consistent with state law, which allows livestock owners and their employees to take lethal action to protect their livestock in areas of the state where wolves are no longer listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Over the past two months, radio signals from GPS collars attached to two of the pack's members have indicated that those wolves were frequently within a mile of that site during the previous two months, Martorello said.

"This rancher has made concerted efforts to protect his livestock using non-lethal measures," Martorello said. "Our goal is to change the pack's behavior before the situation gets worse.

Since 2015, WDFW has documented that wolves have killed three calves and injured three others in the same area of Stevens County.

Gray wolves are classified as "endangered" under Washington state law, but are no longer protected in the eastern third of the state under the federal Endangered Species Act. The state's wolf plan sets population recovery objectives and outlines methods for minimizing wolf-livestock conflicts

For more information on WDFW's action, see Update on Washington Wolves at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/.

WDFW's Wolf-Livestock Interaction Protocol is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/livestock/action_criteria.html.

Persons with disabilities who need to receive this information in an alternative format or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact Dolores Noyes by phone (360-902-2349), TTY (360-902-2207), or email (dolores.noyes@dfw.wa.gov). For more information, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/reasonable_request.html.

Mar14

Cascadia Goes to Court to Defend Wolf Protections in California

For Immediate Release, March 14, 2017
 
Contacts:      
 
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, nick@cascwild.org
Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
Greg Loarie, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2000, gloarie@earthjustice.org
Tom Wheeler, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 822-7711, tom@wildcalifornia.org
Joseph Vaile, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, (541) 488-5789, joseph@kswild.org
 
Conservation Groups Oppose Effort to Remove Wolf Protections in California
Organizations Seek Intervention on Industry Challenge to Endangered Status
 

SAN FRANCISCO— Four conservation groups filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to remove California Endangered Species Act protections from wolves. The lawsuit, against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation and wrongly alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection. 

The intervenors — Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — are represented by Earthjustice.

“Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit is baseless,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “Gray wolves were senselessly wiped out in California and deserve a chance to come back and survive here. We’re intervening to defend the interests of the vast majority of Californians who value wolves and want them to recover.”

Brought on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation, the lawsuit alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection because wolves returning to the state are supposedly the wrong subspecies, which only occurred intermittently in California at the time of the decision and are doing fine in other states.

Each of these arguments has major flaws. UCLA biologist Bob Wayne found that all three currently recognized subspecies of wolves occurred in California. Also — importantly — there is no requirement that recovery efforts focus on the same subspecies, rather than just the species. The fact that wolves were only intermittently present actually highlights the need for their protection, and the California Endangered Species Act is rightly focused on the status of species within California, not other states.  

“The gray wolf is an icon of wildness in the American West, and its return to California after almost 100 years is a success story we should celebrate,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie. “Stripping wolves of protection under the California Endangered Species Act at this early stage in their recovery risks losing them again, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

The four intervening groups petitioned for endangered species protections for wolves in February 2012. After receiving two California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports, scientific peer review assessment of those reports, thousands of written comments submitted by the public and live testimony at multiple public meetings, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect gray wolves in June 2014.

State protection makes it illegal to kill a wolf, including in response to livestock depredations — a major issue for the livestock industry. But despite the industry’s concerns, a growing body of scientific evidence shows nonlethal deterrence measures are more effective and less expensive than killing wolves. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has been allocated federal funding that can be used for nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures and to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves, which make up a very small fraction of livestock losses.

“The cattle industry has made clear that it views wolves as pests and that they filed suit to allow killing of wolves,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Wolves are a vital part of American’s wilderness and natural heritage, helping to restore balance to our ecosystems by regulating elk and deer populations. The path to restoring wolves is through protecting fragile recovering populations.”

Wolves once ranged across most of the United States, but were trapped, shot and poisoned to near extirpation largely on behalf of the livestock industry. Before wolves began to return to California in late 2011 — when a single wolf from Oregon known as wolf OR-7 ventured south — it had been almost 90 years since a wild wolf was seen in the state. Before OR-7 the last known wild wolf in California, killed by a trapper in Lassen County, was seen in 1924.

Since 2011 California’s first wolf family in nearly a century, the seven-member Shasta pack, was confirmed in Siskiyou County in 2015, and a pair of wolves was confirmed in Lassen County in 2016. An additional radio-collared wolf from Oregon has crossed in and out of California several times since late 2015.

 
Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia's wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.
Nov14

Coyote Killing Contest Placing Oregon’s Wolves in Crosshairs

Federal Agencies Urged to Halt Coyote-hunting Contest in Oregon’s Lake County
Contest Risks Killing Endangered Wolves, Breaking Wildlife Laws
 
PORTLAND, Ore.— Six wildlife conservation organizations representing nearly 212,000 Oregonians are calling on the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to stop a coyote-hunting contest planned for Nov. 19-20. The groups are concerned that in addition to being cruel and wasteful, the “Lake County Coyote Calling Derby” could result in killing of endangered gray wolves, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
 
“This contest is unethical, cruel and risks violating federal law,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are fully federally protected throughout the entirety of Lake County, so federal wildlife and land management officials have a duty to do everything in their power to protect them.”
 
The hunting contest, which awards prizes for the most coyotes killed, is being sponsored by the Lake County chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association and by Robinson Heating and Cooling. The contest will take place on both Forest Service and BLM land, which cover large portions of Lake County. Despite this the contest organizers have not sought a required “special use permit.” Such a permit would trigger a review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of the risk of killing federally protected wolves, which have been confirmed in Lake County by federal and state officials and are easily mistaken for coyotes.
 
“Coyote killing contests are nothing more than the indiscriminate, wanton slaughter of wildlife,” said Brooks Fahy, Executive Director of Eugene-based Predator Defense.  “Contest organizers often purport that killing coyotes will protect livestock and enhance prey populations like deer and elk.  Ironically, science is telling us just the opposite. When coyotes are killed, those that survive reproduce at higher levels.”
 
The conservation groups requested that both the Forest Service and BLM suspend the contest until permits are issued, the Fish and Wildlife Service has the opportunity to ensure no wolves will be harmed, and the public has the opportunity to comment.
 
“It is completely irresponsible for these federal agencies to allow a killing contest for an animal that closely resembles the endangered gray wolf in this region,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Wolves are just beginning to establish a foothold in southwestern Oregon, and it would be tragic for that to be lost due to an overlooked coyote killing derby.”
 
Scott Beckstead, Oregon senior state director of The Humane Society of the United States said, “Killing contests are cruel, wasteful, and deeply at odds with the humane values of the vast majority of Oregonians. The event promotes a “shoot anything that moves” mentality and is bound to result in the killing of non target wildlife. We urge the USFS and BLM to deny permission for this event, and we urge the people of Oregon to demand that our state wildlife managers finally put an end to these festivals of cruelty.”
 
“Not only do these killing contest endanger a protected species,” said Wally Sykes, co-founder of Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, “but they are a symptom of a general disrespect for wildlife and a poor understanding of the complex relationships of prey and predator.”
 
The request was sent by Predator Defense, the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, The Humane Society of the United States, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems and Oregon Wild.
 
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
Predator Defense is a national nonprofit advocacy organization with over 15,000 supporters.  We have been working since 1990 to protect native predators and end America’s war on wildlife.  Our efforts take us into the field, onto America’s public lands, to Congress, and into courtrooms. http://www.predatordefense.org
 
Cascadia Wildlands defends and restores Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion. Join our movement today.
 
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization. We and our affiliates provide hands-on care and services to more than 100,000 animals each year, and we professionalize the field through education and training for local organizations. We are the leading animal advocacy organization, seeking a humane world for people and animals alike. We are driving transformational change in the U.S. and around the world by combating large-scale cruelties such as puppy mills, animal fighting, factory farming, seal slaughter, horse cruelty, captive hunts and the wildlife trade. http://www.humanesociety.org
 
Oregon Wild: Protecting Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters for future generations. http://www.oregonwild.org
 
Northeast Oregon Ecosystems works to protect and expand Oregon’s wildlife and wildlife habitat.

 

Oct07

Poll: Most Oregonians Oppose Hunting of Wolves, Favor Nonlethal Conflict Prevention

For Immediate Release
October 7, 2016
 
Contacts:
>Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
>Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity, (707) 779-9613, aweiss@biologicaldiversity.org
>Catalina Tresky, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0253, ctresky@defenders.org
>Lia Cheek, Endangered Species Coalition, (617) 840-4983, lcheek@endangered.org
>Arran Robertson, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 x 223, ar@oregonwild.org
>Lindsay Raber, Pacific Wolf Coalition, (928) 301-6321, coordinator@pacificwolves.org
 
PORTLAND, Ore.— A new poll conducted by Mason Dixon Polling and Research finds that the vast majority of Oregon voters — from both rural and urban areas — oppose using hunting as a management tool for wolves in the state and believe wildlife officials wrongly removed state protections from wolves. The poll also revealed that most Oregonians believe nonlethal methods should be the primary focus in reducing conflicts between wolves and livestock.  
 
Details of the poll results include the following:
 
•    72 percent oppose changing Oregon law to allow trophy hunting of wolves.
•    67 percent oppose hunting wolves as a tool to maintain deer and elk populations.
•    63 percent oppose Oregon’s removal last year of endangered species protections for wolves.
•    67 percent said they don’t believe wolves pose an economic threat to the cattle industry that necessitates killing wolves.
•    72 percent said nonlethal conflict prevention measures must be attempted before officials are allowed to kill wolves.
 
“It’s very encouraging — and far from surprising — that the survey indicates a broad majority of Oregonians believe we can, and should, find ways to coexist with wolves,” said Dr. Michael Paul Nelson, a professor at Oregon State University whose research focuses on ecosystems and society. “And it should be instructive to policymakers that these results demonstrate that people across the state — even in rural areas most affected by wolves — want our public policies on wolves to reflect the facts, not unsubstantiated rhetoric and opinions.”
 
The Oregon wolf conservation and management plan adopted by the state in 2005 is now belatedly undergoing a legally mandated five-year review. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is holding meetings, including one taking place today in La Grande and another on Dec. 2 in Salem, to accept public testimony on proposed updates to the plan. Conservation groups are calling for a revival of provisions that require clear, enforceable standards that helped reduce conflict from 2013 to 2015. The livestock industry and some in the hunting community are calling for policies that make it easier to kill wolves. In March Commission Chair Finley argued for allowing trophy hunts to fund conservation. Without revision the plan reduces protections for wolves, eliminates enforceable standards, and could allow hunting as soon as next year.
 
At the end of 2015, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed an estimated 110 wolves in the state, ranging across 12 percent of habitat defined by that agency as currently suitable. Published science indicates that Oregon is capable of supporting up to 1,450 wolves. The tiny population of wolves that currently exists occupies only around 8 percent of the animals’ full historic range in the state. Last year the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to strip wolves of protections under the state endangered species law, despite comments submitted by more than two dozen leading scientists highly critical of that decision. The commission’s decision is being challenged in court by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild.
 
“It is clear from the feedback and analysis the state received that there was no scientific basis for delisting wolves in Oregon,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands and an attorney on the delisting case. “And to the extent that the state was responding to public wishes of Oregonians, this poll demonstrates that Oregonians did not support this premature delisting by the state.”
 
“Oregonians value wolves and feel that the state should be doing more to protect them, including resolving conflicts with livestock without resorting to guns and traps,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With the state wolf plan review now underway, we hope the Fish and Wildlife Commission follows the science and refuses to make changes to the wolf plan based on fearmongering from those opposed to sharing our landscapes with wildlife.”
 
“Science shows that effective management of wolves does not involve hunting, and this poll clearly shows the people of Oregon stand with the science. We trust that any future management decisions made by the commission will represent the wishes of the people and current research,” said Danielle Moser of the Endangered Species Coalition.
 
“It's clear from the poll that Oregonians are in favor of conservation, not deputizing hunters to kill more wolves," said Arran Robertson, communications coordinator for Oregon Wild. “The idea that wolf-hunting is an appropriate tool to manage deer and elk populations is absurd. Rather than stooping to Oregon’s default policy of scapegoating and killing native wildlife, officials should focus on enforcing poaching laws and maintaining quality habitat.”
 
“Oregonians strongly support the recovery of wolves in our state,” said Quinn Read, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “And they want to see common-sense management practices such as the use of nonlethal conflict prevention tools to allow wolves and people to share the landscape.”
“On behalf of the Pacific Wolf Coalition, we are pleased to hear from Oregonians,” said Lindsay Raber, coordinator for the Pacific Wolf Coalition. “This is an opportunity to learn from the public’s perspectives and values which will help inform and guide our continued efforts toward wolf recovery in the Pacific West states.”
 
The Pacific Wolf Coalition commissioned the poll, which was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research on 800 registered Oregon voters on Sept. 20-22, 2016. The margin of error is + or – 3.5 percent.
 
The mission of the Pacific Wolf Coalition is to optimize an alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting wolves in the Pacific West. Together we hold a common vision where wolves once again play a positive, meaningful, and sustainable role on the landscape and in our culture. For more information, visit www.pacificwolves.org.
 
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Sep07

Press Release: Court Orders Fish and Wildlife Service to Reexamine Lynx Critical Habitat

For Immediate Release
September 7, 2016
 
Contacts:
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-324-8011, bishop@westernlaw.org
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
Arran Robertson, Oregon Wild, 503-283-6343 ext. 223, ar@oregonwild.org
 
 
Missoula, MT — Today the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana ordered the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to reconsider its decision to exclude the Canada lynx’s entire southern Rocky Mountain range, essential for the wildcat’s recovery, from designation as critical habitat.
 
Critical habitat is area designated by the federal government as essential to the survival and recovery of a species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Once designated, federal agencies must make special efforts to protect critical habitat from damage or destruction. In 2014, the Service designated approximately 38,000 acres of critical habitat for threatened lynx, but chose to exclude the lynx’s entire southern Rocky Mountain range, from south-central Wyoming, throughout Colorado, and into north-central New Mexico. These areas are vital to the iconic cat’s survival and recovery in the western U.S., where lynx currently live in small and sometimes isolated populations. Now, according to the court’s September 7, 2016, order, the Service must go back and reexamine these areas.
 
“Given that evidence cited by the Service in the September 2014 final rule shows that a reproducing lynx population exists in Colorado, the Service’s failure, on account of marginal hare densities, to designate critical habitat to protect that population and aid in its maintenance is arbitrary, capricious, and ‘offends the ESA.’ ” Court order at 20
 
“This decision gives the lynx a fighting chance to not only survive – but recover – in the southern Rockies,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who represented the groups. “We’re hopeful this decision will mark a turning point for lynx conservation in the heart of southern Rockies lynx habitat.”
 
Lynx habitat is under threat across the contiguous U.S. from climate change, road building, motorized recreation, and logging. Perplexingly, the Service’s latest designation decreased existing protections by 2,593 square miles compared to a 2013 plan. In doing so, the Service excluded much of the cat’s historic and currently occupied, last best habitat in the southern Rockies and other areas from protection. The court found the Service failed to follow the science showing that lynx are successfully reproducing in Colorado, and therefore excluding Colorado from the cat’s critical habitat designation “runs counter to the evidence before the agency and frustrates the purpose of the ESA.”
 
 “With increasing threats from climate change and development, it's long past time lynx receive every possible protection, including safeguards for the rare cat’s southern Rockies habitat,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to stop playing politics and start meeting its obligations to recover our most imperiled species, including lynx.”
 
The court ruled the Service did not improperly fail to designate historical Canada lynx habitat in Oregon and Washington’s Kettle Range, disappointing wildlife advocates.
 
“Canada lynx once roamed snowy peaks in Oregon from the Eagle Caps to Crater Lake,” said Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery. “It's unfortunate that this decision does not do more to help restore this iconic animal to its rightful place in the Oregon backcountry.”
 
"It is discouraging that Oregon was not included, but this victory keeps us hopeful for the species," said Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands.
 
"Washington's Kettle Range provides important lynx habitat and a vital connection between populations in the Northern Rockies and those in the North Cascades," said Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest. "We're disappointed that this area has not been recognized as critical habitat, and we urge managing agencies to take further steps to protect lynx habitat in northeast Washington."
 
The Service first listed lynx as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2000. However, at that time the Service failed to protect any lynx habitat, impeding the species’ survival and recovery. Lynx habitat received no protection until 2006, and that initial critical habitat designation fell short of meeting the rare cat’s needs and the ESA’s standards. After two additional lawsuits brought by conservationists challenging the Service’s critical habitat designations culminated in 2008 and 2010, a district court in Montana left the agency’s lynx habitat protection in place while remanding it to the Service for improvement. This resulted in the most recent and still inadequate habitat designation.
 
In 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana also ruled that the Service violated the ESA by failing to prepare a recovery plan for lynx after a more than 12-year delay. The court ordered the Service to complete a recovery plan for lynx by January 15, 2018.
 
“Lynx are a vital part of the landscape in Colorado and they need to be protected to ensure that they continue to recover, and eventually prosper," said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of Wilderness Workshop. "This decision is an important step in that direction. ”
 
The Western Environmental Law Center represented WildEarth Guardians, Wilderness Workshop, Cascadia Wildlands, Conservation Northwest, and Oregon Wild on the case.
 
Background
Canada lynx, medium-sized members of the feline family, are habitat and prey specialists. Heavily reliant on snowshoe hare, lynx tend to be limited in both population and distribution to areas where hare are sufficiently abundant. Like their preferred prey, lynx are specially adapted to living in mature boreal forests with dense cover and deep snowpack. The species and its habitat are threatened by climate change, logging, development, motorized access, and trapping, which disturb and fragment the landscape, increasing risks to lynx and their prey.
 
Studies show species with designated critical habitat under the ESA are more than twice as likely to have increasing populations than those species without. Similarly, species with adequate habitat protection are less likely to suffer declining populations and more likely to be stable. The ESA allows designation of both occupied and unoccupied habitat key to the recovery of listed species, and provides an extra layer of protection especially for animals like lynx that have an obligate relationship with a particular landscape type.
 
May02

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Three Oregon Lawmakers Over the Wolf Delisting Bill

For immediate release
May 2, 2016
 
Contact: Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
 
Ethics Complaint Filed Against State Representatives Over Gray Wolf Delisting Legislation
 
EUGENE, OR – Today, Cascadia Wildlands submitted a complaint to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission alleging numerous false statements and misrepresentations made by State Representatives Greg Barreto, Brad Witt, and Sal Esquivel in order to secure passage of House Bill 4040 (HB4040) during this spring’s legislative session.  HB4040 legislatively removed the gray wolf from Oregon’s list of threatened and endangered species.
 
On November 9, 2015, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to remove gray wolves from the state’s list of endangered species, despite only approximately 80 wolves residing in the state at the time.  This decision was widely criticized as unscientific and politically driven, and was challenged by Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity in state court.  HB4040 referenced the delisting decision, but the three lawmakers, including Rep. Barreto, the bill’s author and sponsor, asserted both in the course of legislative hearings and through documents distributed to other state legislators that HB 4040 would have no impact on judicial review of the commission’s controversial delisting decision.
 
“Our government is founded upon a system of checks and balances, including access to the courtroom, and these politicians worked overtime to remove our ability to bring this important case in front of a judge,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “Oregon’s small wolf population and advocates for democracy ended up being the losers.”
 
Conservation advocates repeatedly warned that HB4040 would in fact undermine the public’s ability to challenge the commission’s wolf delisting decision. However, it was not until after the bill’s passage through Oregon House of Representatives that an inquiry by Oregon’s Legislative Counsel Committee uncovered that the only effect of the bill was to prevent judicial review of the wolf delisting decision.
 
On April 22, Oregon’s Court of Appeals dismissed the legal case brought by the three conservation organization, specifically stating the “enactment of HB4040 renders the judicial review moot and dismisses the judicial review on that ground.”
 
ORS 171.764(1) regulating ethical conduct maintains that no public official shall make any false statement or misrepresentation to any legislative or executive official.
 
“Lawmakers undermine the public’s trust when they mislead their colleagues and make false statements,” says Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The Oregon Government Ethics Commission should determine whether Representatives Barreto, Witt, and Esquivel were deliberately mischaracterizing HB4040 in their attempt to fast track the removal of protections for Oregon’s recovering wolf population. The misrepresentations surrounding HB4040 allowed the bill to pass through Oregon’s Legislature, and gray wolves will ultimately pay the price.”
 
The ethics complaint lists several instances of lawmakers declaring that HB4040 does not undermine judicial review.
 
 
If found in violation of ethics laws guarding against false statement or misrepresentation, lawmakers could face civil penalties.
Apr04

Fed’s Failure to Protect Wolverines Ruled Illegal

For Immediate Release                                        
April 4, 2015
 
Contacts:    
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Matthew Bishop, Western Environmental Law Center, 406-422-9866, bishop@westernlaw.org  
Bethany Cotton, WildEarth Guardians, 406-414-7227, bcotton@wildearthguardians.org  
 
Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Captive Animal

Wolverine (Guio gulo) adult on a frozen river during winter in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

 
Judge Rules Feds Improperly Refused to Protect Wolverines
Orders Reconsideration of Safeguards for Species Imperiled by Climate Change
 
MISSOULA, Mont. – Today, the federal district court for Montana rejected a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to deny protections for wolverines in the contiguous U.S. The court ruled the Service improperly ignored science and violated the Endangered Species Act. A broad coalition of conservation organizations challenged the Service’s refusal to protect imperiled wolverines by listing them under the ESA.
 
“Today’s win is a victory not just for wolverine but for all species whose fate relies on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We call on the agency to stop playing politics and start living up to its mandate to protect our country’s most imperiled species.”
 
Often called “southern polar bears,” wolverines are custom built for cold, snowy climates and depend on areas with spring snow for denning and year-round habitat. Science shows climate change may eliminate nearly two-thirds of the snowy habitat needed by wolverines in the contiguous U.S. within 75 years. This means significantly less habitat and/or worsened habitat fragmentation for the approximately 250-300 wolverines that remain in the lower 48 states.
 
The Service originally identified climate change, in conjunction with small population size, as the primary threat to wolverine existence in the contiguous U.S. Published, peer-reviewed research, the larger scientific community – including the Society for Conservation Biology – an independent scientific panel, the majority of experts who reviewed the decision, and the Service’s own biologists all verified this finding. The Service proposed listing the wolverine as a “threatened” species under the ESA in 2013. At the eleventh hour, however, the Service reversed course and chose not to protect wolverine, citing too many “uncertainties” in the scientific literature.
 
Today, the court rejected this excuse, holding the agency accountable for its decision to discount the best available science about climate impacts on wolverine. “[T]he Service’s decision against listing the wolverine as threatened under the ESA is arbitrary and capricious. No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change. It has taken us twenty years to get to this point. It is the [Court’s] view that if there is one thing required of the Service under the ESA, it is to take action at the earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation. For the wolverine. That time is now." Opinion at page 83.
 
The court correctly noted that the ESA directs the Service to make listing decisions based on the best available science, not the best possible science. This means the agency cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good. Instead, it must use and rely on the best science available when making listing decisions, which it failed to do in this case.
 
“The court sent a clear message to the Service: don't let politics trump science,” said Matthew Bishop, a Western Environmental Law Center attorney who represented the conservation groups. “The Service cannot ignore the published literature and advice of its own biologists when making important listing decisions.”
 
Today’s ruling requires the agency to make a new final listing determination for wolverines. The ruling also restores the Service’s proposed rule to list wolverine and the wolverine’s status as a candidate species under the ESA.
 
“Cascadia Wildlands is very encouraged by the court's rejection of political game playing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. "As with all species, wolverines deserve conservation and protections based upon sound science. This legal victory sets the stage for further reform of a deteriorating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the installment of protections for this struggling species across the West.”
 
“We hope the Fish and Wildlife Service wastes no more time in granting wolverines Endangered Species Act protection,” said Keith Hammer, chair of Swan View Coalition. “This rare species deserves all the help it can get as we hit record-setting temperatures here in Montana.”
 
“We need to do everything we can to protect wolverines and wolverine habitat in the face of climate change and a snowballing extinction crisis," said Greg Costello, executive director of Wildlands Network. “Our actions should be rooted in precaution and the best available science—not political nitpicking.”
 
“With only 300 wolverine spread across the Western U.S., it is refreshing to see the court appreciates the precarious state of wolverine populations and confirm the findings of the Fish and Wildlife Service's own biologists that the species merits ESA protection,” said ecologist George Wuerthner.
 
“Wolverines deserve protection, not political shenanigans,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must now do its job to protect and recover this imperiled animal.”
 
“It is reassuring to know that our court system is doing its job, even while other branches of government flounder,” said Larry Campbell of Friends of the Bitterroot. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is apparently willing to illegally sacrifice an awesome species and good science while ineptly playing politics. Go wolverines!”
 
A copy of the decision is available here.
 
A copy of the original complaint is available here.
 
Matthew Bishop and John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center and Sarah McMillan of WildEarth Guardians represented WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Wild Swan, George Wuerthner, Helena Hunters and Anglers Association, Kootenai Environmental Alliance, Native Ecosystem Council, Oregon Wild, and the Swan View Coalition on the case.
 
Additional quotes from the decision:
 
“Why did the Service make the decision [to not list the wolverine]?…Based on the record, the Court suspects that a possible answer to this question can be found in the immense political pressure that was brought to bear on this issue, particularly by a handful of western states.” Opinion at page 56.
 
“This strikes the Court as the essence of arbitrary and capricious decision making.” Opinion at page 61 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“[A]s Plaintiffs’ counsel rightly pointed out … the Service’s stance here borders on the absurd – if evidence shows that wolverines need snow for denning purposes, and the best available science projects a loss of snow as a result of climate where and when wolverines den, then what sense does it make to deny that climate change is a threat to the wolverine simply because research has yet to prove exactly why wolverines need snow for denning?” Opinion at page 67 (discussing climate change claim).
 
“If ever there was a species for which conservation depends on foregoing absolute certainty, it is the wolverine.” Opinion at page 68 (discussing why we don’t need absolute certainty for why wolverine need deep persistent snow).
 
Background:
 
Wolverine number just 250-300 individuals in the contiguous U.S. and are dependent on high elevation habitat with deep winter snows. Imperiled by climate change, habitat loss and trapping, wolverine were first petitioned for ESA protections in 2000. The Service found the petition did not contain adequate information to justify a listing. A federal court overturned that decision in 2006. The Service then issued a negative 12-month finding in 2008, which was challenged in court resulting in a settlement that led to a new finding that wolverine should be protected under the ESA, but that other priorities precluded the listing at that time. A landmark settlement with WildEarth Guardians, which resolves the backlog of imperiled species awaiting protections, then guaranteed a new finding for wolverine. In February 2013, the Service proposed listing the wolverine as “threatened” under the ESA. In August 2014, however, the Service reversed course and issued a decision not to list the species, contradicting its own expert scientists’ recommendations. Today’s ruling is in response to the organizations’ legal challenge to that decision.
 
Image courtesy of © David J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com (high-res version here)
###

 

Mar31

Press Release: State of Oregon to Kill Alpha Pair and Two Others in Imnaha Wolf Pack

March 31, 2016
For immediate release
Contact:
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, 314-482-3746; nick@cascwild.org
 
UPDATE: At 2:49 pm today we received communication from ODFW that the agency lethally removed the four wolves.
 
Following a series of cattle and sheep depredations in Wallowa County, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized lethal control of four Imnaha Pack wolves, including the alpha male (OR-4), the alpha female (OR-39), and two young wolves.
 
"We are deeply saddened by the difficult situation that has arisen for these Imnaha Pack wolves," said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.  “Although the situation appears to be escalating in Wallowa County, we don’t condone using public taxpayer dollars to kill wolves on behalf of private interests.
 
OR-4 is one of the original alpha males in Oregon and has played a significant role in wolf recovery across the state.
 
"This is a particularly difficult day as OR-4 has sired an incredible number wolf pups over the years, which has fueled wolf recovery across the state,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “His role and that of the other three wolves should be celebrated and remembered."
 
Four other members of the Imnaha Pack appear to have split from this group of four, and are not being targeted, according to ODFW. The separation of the pack, and the advanced age and condition of both OR-4 and OR-39, could indicate the pack is splitting and may be contributing to the spike in livestock depredations.
 
Lethal control under these circumstances, like when pro-active nonlethal techniques are used to deter conflict, is contemplated in the Oregon Wolf Plan, and it appears the state has meaningfully deliberated over its decision.
 
More background on gray wolf recovery in the Pacific West can be found here.
 
                                                                  ####
Feb25

House Bill 4040 and the Politics of Delisting Oregon’s Wolves

by Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands legal director
 
California's Shasta Pack (CDFW photo)

Shasta Pack

It is astonishing to folks at Cascadia Wildlands that House Bill 4040 (HB4040) was even a topic of conversation this "short" legislative session. Every other year, the Oregon legislature holds a short session that only lasts around one month, and because of the limited time for discussion and debate, usually only non-controversial bills are taken up.
 
However, this session the House passed and the Senate is seriously deliberating over HB4040 despite tremendous controversy, deceit, and enormous amounts of misinformation.  HB4040 would legislatively remove the gray wolf from the state list of threatened and endangered species, precluding the public's right to judicial review to ensure that the delisting is scientifically and legally sound.  
 
This bill's success thus far has been unbelievable for a number of reasons.  First, Oregon still only has around one hundred wolves in the state.  This is approximately seven percent of the state's purported ecological capacity, and the wolves only occupy about 12 percent of their suitable habitat in the state.  Most of the wolves are still concentrated in the northeast corner of Oregon.  We believe that these statistics alone show that wolves, while on the path to recovery (we had zero wolves 10 years ago), have not fully recovered and are not ready for critical protections to be removed. The scientific community has largely agreed with us and offered widespread critique of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission's proposal to delist.
 
Second, Oregon has democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate. We believed, as did the Salem Statesman Journal, that democrats supported the concept that environmental decisions should be made on the basis of sound science and not politics.  In the past, democrats in Oregon have prevented the intervention of special interests in wildlife management, especially when involving threatened or endangered species. For example, four of the past five years extremists in the livestock industry and their lobbyists in Salem have introduced bills aimed at removing protections for wolves, and these bills never got serious attention, largely through pushback by democrats.  We are dumbfounded as to why democratic legislators in Salem are now kowtowing to special interests given that 96% of people who commented on the delisting encouraged retaining the wolf's listed status.
 
Photo taken July 6, 2013 of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.  Subadult wolves assist in the raising of the pups. Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

Photo taken of OR17 with a 2013 pup of the Imnaha pack.

Third, the bill is undemocratic because it precludes judicial review of ODFW's delisting decision.  Essentially, judicial review functions as a crucial part of our government's system of checks and balances.  The legislature makes laws — general guidelines for agency behavior.  The executive or administrative agencies enforce these laws and carry out their execution.  The judicial branch ensures that agency actions comply with the laws.  Here, ODFW and its Commission delisted the gray wolf. Pursuant to our state laws concerning endangered species, such a finding is required to be based upon the best available science and make certain findings, like whether or not wolves have recovered throughout a significant portion of their range in the state.  We believed that because wolves only occupied a small percentage of their range, ODFW failed to make the required findings, and we and our colleagues sought judicial review of the agency decision.  HB4040 amounts to the legislature changing the rules of the game after the agency has already made the decision, exempting ODFW from having to make the requisite scientific findings.  Again, the Salem Statesman Journal put it well: "It would be grossly unfair, and a bad precedent, for the Legislature to change the rules after the litigation has started."
 
Fourth, the bill's proponents weren't being truthful in order to pass it through the House.  When the bill first popped up, Cascadia Wildlands directed its supporters interested in the wolf topic to contact their representatives and tell them to not vote for the bill for all of the reasons above.  The message that was repeatedly received was the representative was supporting the bill because it was simply "a pat on the back" for ODFW, and would not preclude judicial.  We were dumbfounded. Upon close scrutiny, the only reason for this bill, its sole effect, is to preclude judicial review of the wolf delisting. Obviously, lobbyists and even legislators pushing this bill were not being truthful about its effects, and legislators regurgitating this refrain either refused to look at the bill or made a conscious choice to spread the misinformation further.  
 
The true purpose of the bill was uncovered before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources this week through the honorable efforts of Senators Michael Dembrow and Floyd Prozanski. But instead of killing the bill because of the blatant deceit or at the very least sending it back down to the House with full disclosure about the bill's intent and effects, the Senate Committee passed the bill with a vote of 3 to 2, with Senators Dembrow and Prozanski voting against the bill, and Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) supporting it along with two republicans on the Committee.
 
It appears the divisive politics paralyzing Washington DC and partisan game playing have now infected our state.  
 
We have allies in this fight for sound science.  State Senators Dembrow and Prozanski have worked hard to defeat the bill.  Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has taken up the effort, calling out fellow state democrats for their betrayal of sound science for political games.  
 
This fight is not over yet, and there is still opportunity to turn senators who are on the fence about this bill.  Take action now and also call your local state senator to urge them to vote "no" on HB4040.  And thank you for standing up for Oregon's recovering wolves. 

 

 

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